Prelude I: The Catacombs
Mavix held the torch forward like a lance. Before him the passage through the catacombs of Cynnador twisted and turned like some possessed snake so the light illuminated only a few feet ahead.
"What do you see?" came a voice from behind him.
"Just rock, my lord."
"No signs of demons?"
"No. Just rock."
"Good." Master Magician Vynf clapped his hands, the sound echoing ahead and behind. "--As I've suspected all along. The catacombs of Cynnador are protected by lies, not by the unholy. Continue."
Hoping and praying the magician was correct, especially since he had just alerted any curious ears, Mavix walked onward. The floor beneath was uneven, the walls closing in at all angles. He didn't want to ask the obvious: if there are no demons, then what protects the catacombs? There had been attempts to explore these dark caves before. Never successfully. When the magician had approached him about the expedition, he had been assured that Vynf had planned for every eventuality.
"A small party is less likely to attract the attention of whatever lurks below Cynnador," he had said. "I am sure that is one of the reasons why others have failed. For this venture there will be just the two of us."
"Two? But what if we are attacked?"
"I will have magical sentries sent out ahead to warn us of any 'demons.' And we will both be protected by the strongest shielding spells. We will be safe."
Mavix had been swayed by his arguments and the large amount of money and salt he would earn if they were successful. Although now, as he ducked under an overhanging rock, he was beginning to have doubts. Seconds later he heard the magician curse.
"I hit my head on that rock. I can't see standing here behind you."
"Do you want a torch?"
"The less light, the less obvious we are. Let me lead for a bit."
The passage was narrow and Mavix had to set down the torch so the magician could squeeze by.
"That's better," Vynf said.
"Stay close behind and have your weapon ready."
Mavix nodded and followed the magician onward. Yes, it was difficult to see, he realized. Thanks to the severe turns of the tunnel, about all that was obvious was the light reflecting off the ceiling and the shape of the magician before him. The narrowness of the passage made carrying his sword difficult as it continually bounced off protruding rocks. He would have a long session with the whetstone ahead of him, he realized. Still he did what the magician bade as holstering the weapon, or, worse, withdrawing it, could prove difficult in these catacombs.
So they continued onward until the passage veered sharply to the left. Mavix watched the reflection of the light on the wall as Vynf turned the corner. And then the light totally disappeared. Mavix stopped and his grip on his weapon tightened.
"Vynf, what do you see?" he called out. There was no response save the echo of his voice.
There had been no warning, no sign or word from the magician. Had the demons attacked him? Mavix crouched down and, on hands and knees, slowly moved around the corner. Then he stopped and ice flowed through his veins. The magician was gone.
There was no light ahead, no shadows. Just overwhelming darkness. Mavix called out the magician's name again, with the same results. I can't fight demons! He crawled backwards, his gaze still forward, his hand on the sword in case he was attacked. But without the torch, without the magician, he was helpless in these catacombs. As soon as he dared, he turned, stood and dropped his weapon so he wouldn't be encumbered by its weight. He started back, his hands outstretched so he could follow the twists and turns of the passageway. If he survived, he would tell all he knew that the demons had attacked and killed Vynf. And his great magic had been of no aid at all. They had to be warned: no one could survive the haunted catacombs of Cynnador.